THE patient does not exist, according to Karen Stegers-Jager, an educational scientist specializing in assessment and selection in medical education, with a strong focus on equity and diversity. ‘There is no such thing as one type of patient, who wants to be treated exactly the same and has the same background. You want to see that variety reflected in training and in care.’ An equal opportunity in education for all medical students is crucial here. That promotes diversity in the group of doctors of the future.
This fall, Stegers-Jager will start at Radboud university medical center. Currently, she works at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, where in recent years she achieved much in the area of diversity and inclusion in the population of medical students. ‘My doctoral research gave more insight into the reasons for dropout and delay among students. This was found to be particularly prevalent among students with an immigrant background or whose parents had not studied. In particular, they received more negative evaluations during their clerkships’, according to Stegers-Jager.
First impression is decisive?
Karen Stegers-Jager researched and implemented several ways to increase the chances of success, precisely seeing the talents. She says: ‘We need to be aware that we are more positive about people who are most like us.’ She conveys this while teaching teachers. She also received a Veni grant to study the role of first impressions in rater-based assessments.
There has been an increased societal focus on diversity and inclusion. That was different in 2006, when Karen Stegers-Jager started her doctoral research. 'That this awareness is more prevalent now is really a good development.' At Radboudumc, she will continue to work on this: 'In the coming years, I will put a specific focus on diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities: how do we create learning and working environments in which all our current and future professionals can flourish? This is something we need to work on together. '
According to Stegers-Jager, this cannot be done only through research and teaching. ‘I want to put my findings directly into practice.’ As an example of this, partly under her coordination, the system of assessment during internships at Erasmus MC was changed. This is no longer done by one person, but by different people. A grade automatically rolls out of the system. The possibility for assessors to adjust this grade up or down was discontinued when it turned out that especially students without a migration background benefited from this. ‘As far as I am concerned, this is a clear example of where things can go wrong in assessments. Through changes like this, we can make a difference’, said the incoming professor.
Stegers-Jager recently received a Vidi grant, with which she will investigate how information about previous performance plays a role in workplace assessments. ‘Because also the narrative, the way you tell or write down what you did in the past, or how evaluators speak about you, leads to different ratings.’ In doing so, she aims to contribute to fair assessments for all students.
‘Think before you start’
Stegers-Jager also received a Senior Comenius Fellowship that she is using to develop videos to make students more aware of their choice to study Medicine. Many students already know at a young age that they want to become doctors, the risk of which is that they develop tunnel vision. ‘Often this image is inspired by ER or other hospital series, but not everyone can become a paediatrician or surgeon’, Stegers-Jager said.
She therefore argues for a different vision of the doctors of the future. ‘It has to be more person-centred, we have to look much more closely at what we need as a society. That is not just the medical specialist in the hospital. We must also have an eye for people who can and want to become very good specialists in geriatrics or insurance doctors.’ An inclusive and safe learning environment with fair and valid assessment for all our future professionals is crucial here: ‘Then we educate professionals who promote the health of all people.’
Karen Stegers-Jager studied Educational Sciences and Technology at the University of Twente. In 2012, she obtained her PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam for research on medical students at increased risk of dropping out during the program (title of dissertation: At-Risk Medical Students: Characteristics and Possible Interventions). In doing so, she examined both the characteristics of the students themselves and the possibilities for medical schools to counteract that dropout.
At Erasmus MC, she worked as senior educational researcher and consultant and later as assistant professor. Next to that, she is coordinator of the local selection procedure at Erasmus MC. She is one of the authors of the Higher Education Selection Handbook and a member of the national Expert Group on Accessibility to Higher Education. The appointment will take effect Oct. 1, 2023, for a period of five years.